I thought readers might enjoy this email and the photo that accompanied it, which describes a mother’s shoemaking journey, thus far.
My son has narrow heels and needs a wide toe box. Thus for him I have had to change the patterns completely. Here is a photo of my 8-year-old daughter’s boots, made with your women’s derby pattern. The smallest pattern was printed at 94%, which makes about a US size 2, I think. I also made the boots taller, as these are for Scandinavian winter. They were made out of organic leather and there is a thick layer of 100% wool felt all over inside, except on the soles. The soles are a layer of some other type of wool felt next to the foot (probably some percentage of polyester, as these sheets are firm and even, unlike the wool inside and don’t pill), and two layers of 1/8 plantation crepe glued to the felt. In other words, these are an attempt to make “barefoot boots” suitable for weather that requires something warm, especially to insulate against the snow. They are very light and flexible. The color combo is not necessarily what I would choose, but was requested by my daughter.
They actually look much nicer in real life, after having been stretched over lasts. I have made all my shoes completely without lasts, as I was not able to get some until a couple of weeks ago and this is how I had taught myself before buying patterns. While I use a machine and thus don’t make any holes for stitching, I have had little trouble lining up the uppers and the sole, even without lasts. The lasts do make the front look a lot nicer, though, more like a shoe, less like a slipper.
I have used an old hand crank Singer, which does a nice job… mostly. However, attaching the upper to the sole (one layer of the same leather) has usually ended up in swearing and a sore finger, as I need to press the presser foot with my thumb in order to make the machine not skip stitches, especially at the front and back where there are three layers of leather. It is just not meant for this kind of work, even with a leather needle and all. To hopefully solve the issue, I just bought a Frobana oustole stitcher. While it is way too much machine for shoes with such thin soles, I am hoping it will be a good solution. As it stitches sideways, it removes the issue of one side of the presser foot needing to press on too much leather at the heal and all that. Also, if I manage to buy the part that the edge of the sole is pressed on while sewing, it will always sew at the same distance from the edge. We’ll see if I can actually make it work.
At the moment I have no more soling, so I need to figure that out first. From what I understand, Shreiner wants a minimum order of 200 dollars of each item. (Is this correct?). As I used the 1/8 in. black sheets, I would need to find someone else who used the exact same one in order to not have to buy so much.
Sorry about the long explanation. Most people are not exactly interested, so it is fun to tell someone that understands. I have many times got the comment that I should sell what I make. It is frustrating, as it shows that the people don’t understand at all how many hours of work goes into each pair. (Mainly, as for gifts I have usually put a picture of something the child likes on the shoes, and creating little things out of leather can easily take many, many hours.)